Monday, September 25, 2017

Donald Trump and Tom Price Hate the Lower Classes with a Passion, Healthcare Edition

There is no reason on Earth to disrupt current ways of accessing healthcare under Obama-era rules -- i.e. Obamacare -- but the petty, vindictive, hate-driven Trump administration will do it with a vengeance. Is anyone surprised?

People will die, but that's the point!

The Department of Health and Human Services will do its best to do its worst during Obamacare open enrollment:
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is planning hours-long maintenance shutdowns of the federal ObamaCare exchange during the next open enrollment period, CNN reports.
HHS officials said the website will be shut down for maintenance for 12 hours from midnight to noon almost every Sunday of the next ObamaCare enrollment period, which lasts from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, as well as overnight on the first day of the enrollment period.
...
A spokesperson for an ObamaCare navigator group, which helps people sign up for coverage on the exchanges, told CNN the shutdowns could impact sign-ups.
"I could see this really impacting the ability of people to complete an application sign-up in a single sitting, which is so important," Jason Stevenson, of the Utah Health Policy project, told CNN.
Those navigator groups had their funding slashed by 41 percent in a round of HHS funding cuts last month. Navigators will now receive funding proportionally to how they fared in hitting their enrollment targets during the previous year.

The budget for ObamaCare advertising and outreach was also slashed from $100 million last year to $10 million this year.
Every Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare this year has really been an attempt to slash health services to the poor and "undeserving." Of cournse, the middle class is adversely affected, as well. Since none of the efforts succeeded, Trump's goons will sabotage our existing healthcare system any way they can.

How is it that any sane American votes for these people? Saw a Frank Luntz focus group with seven Hillary voters and seven Trump voters last night on 60 Minutes. Trump voters unswervingly support him after his first nine months. "Give him a chance!" they demand.

We're screwed.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Trump's Morning Joe Tweet Trifecta: He's Callous, Creepy, and (Again) a Liar

It may be that we'll never get over our "president" being an unrepentant liar, but the creepiness that accompanies his untruths and his callous disregard for all sense of decency calls into question his very fitness for office. But we knew that.

Mika Brzezinski at Mar-a-Lago on the night in question. What bleeding?

CNN's Brian Stetler -- whose job it is to report on the media and accuracy -- tweeted a picture of Mika Brzezinski during her now-infamous visit to Mar-a-Lago about which Donald Trump tweeted his "bleeding badly from a face-lift" remark, and clearly Trump was lying yet again.

Commenters on Stetler's tweet both condemned Stetler's playing into Trump's hands and supported his effort to call out Trump's outright deception. I fall on the side of call-out-the-bastard-always-and-repeatedly because the narrative should be that falsehood is at the core of Donald Trump's hopelessly flawed character.

BTW, Trump's outed fake cover of Time that decorates the walls of several of his golf courses is a near-perfect caricature of his abiding insecurity. What a little phony!


Truth is resistance. Repeat after me: Trump is an insecure, lying phony. But there's a small, pitiable caveat: Trump's M. O. is a feature, not a bug, for his legions. What does that tell us? Something we wish we didn't know about a deeply ingrained facet of our American character.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Trump Is Not Normal. The Press Needs to End Normal Coverage.


Donald Trump's fledgling presidency has never been "normal," no matter the hopes of observers here and abroad, and no group suffers this reality more than the press, who have tied themselves in knots trying to cover him in conventional ways. It's high time they gave up the effort.

For Energy Week, Trump took a self-aggrandizing picture. Anything actually
 new on energy? Sure, some tweets. Well, that's almost like policy!

I've been watching in horror this whole presidency -- hell, during the campaign, as well -- as the mainstream media tried to cover Donald Trump and his minions as if they're normal. Sorry, but normal they're not.

People and the press are finally catching on. First, I spotted a Alex Pareene piece on Fusion in which he helps us confront this new "normal." Hint, folks: This normal ain't new.
What most of the worst people in Donald Trump’s administration have in common is that they are Republicans. This simple fact is obscured sometimes by the many ways in which Trump is genuinely an aberration from the political norm—like his practice of naked nepotism rather than laundering the perpetuation of class advantage through a “meritocratic” process—and by the fact that many of the most vocal online spokespeople for “the resistance” ignore the recent history of the Republican Party in favor of a Trump-centric theory of How Fucked Up Everything Is.
But it is necessary for liberals, leftists, and Democrats to actually be clear on the fact that the Republican Party is responsible for Trump. The Democrats’ longterm failure to make a compelling and all-encompassing case against conservatism and the GOP as institutions, rather than making specific cases against specific Republican politicians, is one of the reasons the party is currently in the political wilderness.
[...]
Nearly everything Trump’s done with his appointments and hires, even his chief adviser’s devious plan to destroy the administrative state through understaffing and the installation of loyalists and hacks at every government agency, is just a continuation of a mission begun under George W. Bush. Mike Brown’s sole “experience” before running FEMA was that he was a friend of George W. Bush’s campaign manager. Bush’s ICE chief was a lawyer who’d worked for Kenneth Starr. Monica Goodling, the central figure in the Bush administration’s politically motivated purge of U.S. Attorneys, was a dimwit ideologue lawyer with a degree from Pat Robertson’s bottom-rung law school.
Next time you boggle at the sight of the president’s unqualified son-in-law flying to Iraq to get briefed by generals on the facts on the ground, remember that George W. Bush sent a business school chum to privatize Iraq’s economy and a 24-year-old with no relevant experience to reopen the Iraqi stock market.
Seen in that light, Donald Trump may not be the scariest aspect of this new Normal.

Another view of this comes from Josh Marshall of TPM. Donald Trump's pissing contests are at the core of his psyche: He can't help himself. Somewhere in his lifetime -- middle school, perhaps? -- he was scarred to the point where EVERY FIGHT IS THE BIGGEST FIGHT. What the media needs to do is drop out of this game because it's unwinnable.
We’ve collectively been living in Donald Trump’s house now for more than two years. We know him really well. We know that he sees everything through a prism of the dominating and the dominated. It’s a zero-sum economy of power and humiliation. For those in his orbit he demands and gets a slavish adoration. Even those who take on his yoke of indignity are fed a steady diet mid-grade humiliations to drive home their status and satisfy Trump’s need not only for dominance but unending public displays of dominance. He is a dark, damaged person.
Trump’s treatment of the press is really a version of the same game, a set of actions meant to produce the public spectacle of ‘Trump acts; reporters beg.’ ‘Reporters beg and Trump says no.’ Demanding, shaming all amount to trying to force actions which reporters have no ability to compel. That signals weakness. And that’s the point.
How does the media drop out of this game? Start by treating Trump -- and, by extension, the rest of the Republican hordes -- as exactly what he is: a bully who doesn't deserve the bully pulpit. But have it he does, and it's high time the media stop trying to be deliberative and start being the front line of the resistance. Call out every one on Trump's horrifying tweets and every one of his or the Republicans' nearly endless lies.

It's what they do, and it's now the media's full-time job to stop this nonsense. Otherwise, it continues unabated while reporters try to frame polite, tepid questions.

Of course, until it doesn't:


Okay, good. That's a start.

Oh, and for your amusement, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough have disinvited Trump from watching their show, saying it's for the good of the country. True patriots.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Donald Trump Tweets His Way into the Doghouse. How Much Longer Can His People Defend Him?

Many were alarmed that a man as coarse and undisciplined -- especially when attacked -- as Donald Trump made his way to the White House. That alarm is proven almost daily to be prescient.

Oh, would Sarah Huckabee Sanders like to say, "not my job" defending Trump.

Tough luck Sarah. It's your job. How much dirtier a job can you stand? I won't be surprised if we discover soon there's a limit. Not to Trump's reckless and tasteless urges, though.

Case in point:



In short, this behavior is indefensible. Odds he never crosses this line again? Takers?

Paul Krugman put it succinctly:


Sanders put it badly:

For the most part, I've enjoyed the various jobs I've had in life, feeling that I was adding to, not subtracting from, our greater society both here and abroad (Not even slightly claiming to be perfect!). If I were Sanders, though, I'd be tempted to take off the mic and walk, never to look back.

Trump's team will, at some point, start to do that. How many are thinking harder about that today?


What Kind of Country Takes Away Healthcare?? (Right, that would be the U.S.)

Through chicanery, gerrymandering, mastery of messaging (no matter how untruthful), and the corralling of white nationalism -- and a helping hand from conniving Russia -- the GOP now rules the roost. So what do they do? Wreak havoc on the government.


The Trump administration is destroying the government -- and the U.S. by extension -- with cuts and curbs and deletions all over the place. It's healthcare that's in the barrel right now.

To help the destruction along, Trump commits a classic manipulation of data. Here's his fake Twitter graphic from this morning:


Trump "gets" it wrong, and Vox puts it right. Plus, if Trump is misinforming by making a drastic cut in Medicaid look like an increase, then what he says the Democrats did is also a blatant lie. Oh well, it was for Trump's base, who'll believe him to the grave. (Oops, they might get there faster under Trumpcare.)

By way of explanation about the data manipulation: If my new lease says my landlord is raising my rent $500 a month, and I pay him only $200 a month more, I can't say, "But I am increasing my rent to you!" and not expect to get evicted pretty soon.

If healthcare costs are going up by 100% over ten years -- and the population in need of help goes up 10% -- raising healthcare spending by only 30% doesn't get you there. You can't say, "But we're spending more than we used to!"

The GOP is actively seeking a way to throw people off health insurance and uses the savings for tax cuts primarily for the rich. What kind of country does that? The GOP answers, "America, does that."

Very bad answer, but true.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

GOP Healthcare Ninjas



Not really healthcare ninjas. They're tax-cut ninjas that were prevented this time from taking healthcare away from the poor and working class to pay for tax cuts for >500k-per-year people. (Actually not even tax-cut ninjas because tax-cut EPIC FAIL THANK GOD.) (this time...)


Saturday, June 24, 2017

What's at Stake with the GOP Senate "Healthcare" Bill, Beyond Simple Healthcare

Paul Krugman captures the truth in a simple graph:


The point is the Senate bill -- or BCRA -- is singularly ill-timed to serve the baby-boomer generation that by happenstance are reaching the critical care phase of their lives. If you cut Medicaid as the GOP wants to, you trap a whole generation in a vice of insufficient care (not all boomers have reached 65!) as well as booting many of them out of nursing homes. Who chooses to do that as public policy? Hmm... maybe the guys pictured below.


Assuming these guys aren't idiots, that answers the stupid-or-evil question.

From the Medicare page that speaks about long-term care (which Medicare doesn't cover):

How can I pay for nursing home care?

There are many ways you can pay for nursing home care. Most people who enter nursing homes begin by paying for their care out-of-pocket. As you use your resources (like bank accounts and stocks) over a period of time, you may eventually become eligible for Medicaid.
Got that? Whatever wealth you've acquired in your life is by design supposed to be eaten up by your long-term care. When it does, Medicaid is there. Unless, of course, the GOP gets its way. Holy shit. Talk about a death tax.

And just not to forget the rest of the poor and working class, regardless of age, the Senate bill dooms another 22 million to lose their coverage, though there's some overlap here. Anyway you look at it, it's a gruesome choice the GOP are making. People will die for tax cuts for the rich. Not close to funny.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Horrible Human Being Rises to the Top: AG Jeff Sessions Adopts All-Out Lying as a Legal Tactic

Hearing that Miami-Dade may have collapsed under the contemptible pressure tactics of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions was disheartening. I hold out hope and expectations that other urban areas will be savvy enough to understand that Sessions' club is made of paper mâché.

What makes guys like this tick? Utter, outright racism. It's not complicated.

No, it's not complicated finding the motivation for an attorney general who was once denied the federal bench for being the racist that he is. But what stretches the imagination is that Sessions would imitate his boss, Donald Trump, whose pathological lying has gotten him to the White House with little other gear to help him get anything done.

And yet here we are, with Sessions threatening to withhold federal grants and such from jurisdictions that make themselves sanctuaries for undocumented workers. Nothing less than the Supreme Court has weighed in on such tactics -- on a number of cases -- and so Sessions should understand that he's already on thin ice. But that's not stopping him:
We’re familiar with President Trump’s dystopian vision of an America in chaos, preyed on by foreigners and awash in citizens violated by feral criminals and “illegals.” Through last year’s campaign and into this year, Trump has repeatedly lied about the national crime rate, murder rates and much more. Here though is a case where anti-immigrant policies continue to be justified by at least deliberately misleading statements and what can only be called incitement.
Here’s a statement released today by the Justice Department, justifying a letter sent out to nine so-called “sanctuary cities” threatening loss of federal funds if they don’t collaborate and assist Trump administration immigration policies.
Here’s the second paragraph (emphasis added) …
Additionally, many of these jurisdictions are also crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime. The number of murders in Chicago has skyrocketed, rising more than 50 percent from the 2015 levels. New York City continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city’s “soft on crime” stance. And just several weeks ago in California’s Bay Area, after a raid captured 11 MS-13 members on charges including murder, extortion and drug trafficking, city officials seemed more concerned with reassuring illegal immigrants that the raid was unrelated to immigration than with warning other MS-13 members that they were next.
The second highlighted sentence doesn’t explicitly say the murder rate continues to rise in New York City. But that is certainly the intended impression, along with the dig at ‘soft on crime’ policies.
Read the rest of Josh Marshall's piece to discover what obvious horseshit these claims are. Crime and murder are way down, especially in New York City, and in any event undocumented workers commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans.

Just to be clear, there's method to the madness of sanctuary cities. Not only is it a humane way to deal with a problem that's not going away anytime soon, but it's actually a law enforcement tool to reduce crime. NPR had a good piece on this:
But the available data on crime, immigration, and safety in cities does not support the premise for the president's actions. News outlets and researchers pointed out during the presidential campaign that immigrants who are in the country illegally are less likely to commit crimes or be incarcerated than the general population. The American Immigration Council noted in a 2015 study that the recent period of rising immigration to the United States from 1990 to 2013 also corresponded with plummeting crime rates across the country.
This past Thursday, a new study conducted Tom K. Wong, a political scientist at the University of California-San Diego, found that there are broad benefits for local jurisdictions that resist cooperating with federal immigration enforcement — they are safer in the aggregate and enjoy stronger economies. "For the first time we're kind of seeing that crime rates are lower when localities stay out of the business of federal immigration enforcement," Wong said.

You'd think an attorney general would want that. You'd be wrong.

We'll see if Sessions pulls off this corrupt bit of Kabuki theater. I say no. Will he become the newest resident of Bullshit Mountain, as Jon Stewart used to call it? It's pretty obvious he already has.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Telling Sanctuary Cities to Enforce Federal Immigration Law: Just How This Works

Umkay. The 10th Amendment more or less says what powers aren't handed to the federal government in the Constitution -- or rightfully given to the federal branch by an act of Congress -- devolves to the states. What's more, the Supreme Court basically said you can't force states to expand Medicaid, under Obamacare, through threat of withholding federal money. And yet Jeff Sessions shall try. Again, and again.

Mr. Attorney General, beat dead horse.

Nobody is going to accuse Jeff Sessions of refusing to swim upstream, or piss into the wind, for that matter. As the chief law enforcement of the United States, enforcing the law is rightfully his business. What should not be his business is engaging in futile pissing contests with the states. And yet:
The Justice Department wrote to eight cities Friday afternoon that have declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, demanding they submit proof of compliance with federal immigration law and threatening their federal grant money if they fail to do so.
In a statement accompanying the letter to Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee, New York, and Sacramento, the Justice Department erroneously equates the cities’ policies limiting information sharing with federal immigration officials with a spike in crime in those areas.
(No spike in crime, lowest crime across the nation in more than four decades, immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born...)

This is not the first time Jefferson Beauregard has issued this threat or, possibly, even the second. Who can count amid the general chaos that is the Trump administration? And yet here we are.
Many legal experts believe this would violate states’ 10th Amendment rights, as well as a number of Supreme Court rulings that held that the federal government cannot coerce local governments to adopt a certain policy by withholding federal funding.
Ya think? So how do you think this will go? Here's my take:
  1. Sessions says what he just said.
  2. Bunch of cities say no.
  3. Sessions finds a willing department that will deny federal funds for something (will he actually find any departments willing to do that? Hmm.).
  4. The cites sue his ass.
  5. A judge issues a stay against the cutoff of funds.
  6. ??? (we wait however long)
  7. A judge rules against Sessions, who appeals and loses, and then appeals and loses, and the Supreme Court rules against him.
  8. ???
  9. Trump gets impeached (or not), or it's 2020 and they're all chased out on their butts.
Something like that. Meanwhile, Jeff and Donald and the meanies act all screw you (mostly) Mexicans, and America rises yet again in the eyes of the world.


GOP Folly Redux: Tax Cuts Pay for Themselves!

Oh my. Here we go again. Reagan tried. Clinton didn't. George W. Bush tried. Obama didn't. Sam Brownback in Kansas and Scott Walker in Wisconsin tried and got the usual "oops, we're broke" result. (Oh, well, slash universities!) Now it's Trump's turn in the barrel? No, it's not. It's our turn.

Who'd a thunk it? Steve Mnuchin plays the trickle-down card. We're screwed.

With any luck, they're screwed instead of us because even some GOPers realize that the last time this song made the charts, it blew up in their faces. But they keep singing it:
“The plan will pay for itself with growth,” Mnuchin said at an event hosted by the Institute of International Finance.
Assuming economic growth based on changes to the tax code is known as “dynamic scoring,” and many conservatives embrace its use when arguing for lower rates. But estimating the future economic impact of tax cuts is very difficult to do, as it requires policy makers to rely on economic forecasts that are often imprecise.
And even if the White House has rosy estimates about the economic impact of the tax cuts, the administration could run into trouble as any plan moves through Congress. That’s because Congress relies on tax analyses performed by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, which tend to have a more restrained view on the macroeconomic effect of tax cuts.
“We have some evidence about how big these effects can be,” said Donald Marron, a former CBO official who is director of economic policy initiatives at the Urban Institute. “They are not zero, but they are modest.”
Gad, I can't wait to hear Donald Trump with his "We've got the best tax cuts. You've never seen tax cuts until you see how we cut them, that I can tell you."

Actually I can wait. We probably all will. There's no telling when and if this motley crew of pretenders will manufacture a plan that can get through this hyper-dysfunctional Congress. With any luck we'll be spared by the usual suspects: incompetence, chaos, and (gulp, I hope not!) the need to fund Trump's new war.


Note. I assume everybody with an ounce of intelligence and native honesty knows this, but I still should have slipped it in: TAX CUTS NEVER PAY FOR THEMSELVES.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Being a Horrible Human Being Has Its Rewards.

Fox News has been an odious and unending component of the Limbaugh-Drudge-Murdoch triumvirate, and, I suppose, is not going away anytime soon. Still, the idea that horrible men -- and their actions and ideas -- rate this kind of payday just to get rid of them is beyond horrid. It's an indictment of what the sordid underbelly of our society has become and a reminder of what it's always been.

"Fuck these guys" is too weak a send-off but might be all we can manage.

Bill O'Reilly behaved badly and got paid goodly:
Former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly will receive $25 million as part of his settlement to leave the network in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal, according to a source familiar with the matter. 
O’Reilly’s most recent contract provides that he can receive a maximum of one year’s salary upon departure, according to a second source familiar with the matter. The news host’s most recent contract is said to be worth $25 million a year.
Welcome to our world. No wonder "grab them by the pussy" is a battle cry, not a surrender, in an American presidential race.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

The GOP Is Not Even Good at Destroying Healthcare, Let Alone Making it "Better."

In light of the new letter by leaders in the healthcare industry -- that includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce! -- How is it that the controlling Republicans are still trying to figure out how to fuck up healthcare for as many Americans as possible? (It's how they roll.)

People waiting in line for a flu shot.

As we speak, California Democrats are visiting Canada to see how their single-payer system works, and several states, including California, are thinking about going it alone with their own healthcare systems.

And yet the U.S., stymied by the dithering of our GOP-dominated Congress, can't even agree on just how bad we can make it for our citizens. The GOP wants more misery and death; Democrats want less misery and death. You'd think no misery and death would be the goal, but go figure.

Speaking of going and figuring, The conservative-led UK, once of the vaunted National Health Service, have recently been chipping away at the universality of its own healthcare system. The culprit? Underfunding:
The body that represents hospitals across England has issued a startling warning that the NHS is close to breaking point because of its escalating cash crisis.
Years of underfunding have left the service facing such “impossible” demands that without urgent extra investment in November’s autumn statement it will have to cut staff, bring in charges or introduce “draconian rationing” of treatment – all options that will provoke public disquiet, it says.

In an unprecedentedly bleak assessment of the NHS’s own health, NHS Providers, which speaks for hospital trust chairs and chief executives, tells ministers that widespread breaches of performance targets, chronic understaffing and huge overspends by hospitals mean that it is heading back to the visible decline it last experienced in the 1990s.
So even a leading developed nation can unravel a system that's known for universality. As for the U.S., we're in a life-and-death battle just to preserve what we've got. An excerpt from a letter from leading healthcare insurers, healthcare providers, and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
A critical priority is to stabilize the individual health insurance market. The window is quickly closing to properly price individual insurance products for 2018.
 
The most critical action to help stabilize the individual market for 2017 and 2018 is to remove uncertainty about continued funding for cost sharing reductions (CSRs). Nearly 60 percent of all individuals who purchase coverage via the marketplace – 7 million people – receive assistance to reduce deductibles, co-payments, and/or out-of-pocket limits through CSR payments. This funding helps those who need it the most access quality care: low- and modest-income consumers earning less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level.  If CSRs are not funded, Americans will be dramatically impacted...
Read the whole letter here. Those CSRs are currently the football the Trump administration and Congress are tossing back and forth. Anti-ACA hawks, like HHS Secretary Tom Price, want to toss them out altogether, which would cause Obamacare to collapse. Trump is considering dangling them in front of Democrats in hopes of getting them to vote for some form of ACA repeal. Minority Leader Chuck Shumer is leaning toward a "go ahead, make my day" position on Trump's threat. TPM has a good recap of the back and forth:
Trump, in his Wall Street Journal interview, hinted that he is ready to hold Republicans in a separate vice, of similarly questionable construction, by vowing to withhold releasing the White House’s tax reform plan until a health care bill is passed.
To recap: Trump, in his kamikaze-style of political hard ball, is currently a man on an island. He stands alone – apart from congressional Republicans, the health care industry and even the Chamber of Commerce – in holding a gun to the head of a subsidies program that benefits 7 million people.
And in stating those intentions explicitly, Trump made it hard to blame anyone else for pulling the trigger.
Donald Trump, for all the private tutors working the Oval Office, hasn't learned much -- or accomplished much -- in his first 100 days. He's getting nowhere fast, and as Martha Stewart used to say, it's a good thing.


Note.  I've concluded recently that the reason so many Americans -- and possibly now Brits -- are against universal healthcare, even though it would be good for them, is that they don't want to see the wrong people get services they don't "deserve." By this I mean black and brown people, or even "white trash." As for Brits, I think Brexit, as well as the declining NHS, is the result of not wanting those foreigners or Muslims to get what is rightfully reserved for "their own."

This is self-defeating thinking, but tell that to the rubes that have so far propped up Donald Trump and the Republican congresspeople. But that time is coming to an end. A majority of Americans support Obamacare, and a majority would support single-payer. People want their healthcare now, which it's why the GOP was so fired up against Obamacare in the first place, knowing that once people got it they'd never give it back. The genie may be out of the bottle, making repeal-and-replace doubly hard, if not impossible. Let''s hope so.


Monday, April 10, 2017

If America Is Messed Up, Who Can Fix It? Is That Even the Right Question?

In a world in which quite nearly everything imaginable has already been imagined, it's not surprising that what could solve our problems is right in front of our faces.

So, why did you go back to sleep?

Who can fix it isn't the right question. And, no, in my intro I don't mean to suggest we've discovered all we're ever really going to discover. There is so much undiscovered country.

But I do mean to suggest that we know enough about how to live, about how to get along, about how to navigate toward a world that celebrates the common good and away from one that encourages narcissistic, greedy individualism.

The who should do it is answered. Us. It's the how that needs to be rediscovered, reembraced. I was reminded of that in a Jacob Sugarman interview of the British documentarian Adam Curtis in Salon.

Curtis, who says his favorite theme is "power and how it works in society," hit several strong notes in this interview. First, was the notion of "hypernormalisation."
AC: The term was created by a guy called Alexei Yurchak, who wrote a book about the last days of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. What he described was a world where everyone knew that the system in place wasn’t working and that the politicians didn’t believe it any longer. Yet at the same time, because they didn’t have any alternative, everyone just accepted it as normal even though they knew it was abnormal. So he gave it this term hypernormalisation. I’m not trying to say that the West is in any way like the Soviet Union at all. It’s very different. What I was trying to argue, or imply in this film gently, was that we may be in a very similar situation where we know that the system has become somewhat corrupted. But more than that, we know that those in charge don’t really believe in the system any longer, have no vision of the future. And what’s more, they know that we know that.
This is a great insight. Liberals, in a sense, can be defined as those who have come to understand the corruption of capitalism in a sea of under-regulated, dysfunctional markets, which, by the way, is the system conservatives have come to appreciate as the way it's supposed to be, even if it's essentially the way the greedy elite continue unabated to line their pockets. Conservative politicians thrive in this system. The donor class sustains the political class, which in turn feeds the donor class. Crafty closed loop.

A few years back, Occupy Wall St. came along with, according Curtis, most but not all of what it takes to be a positive force for real change. Part of the problem with the Occupy movement was the milieu in which it arose, but that was only part of the problem.
JS: I can’t help but notice that the kind politics you’re advocating sound a lot like those Obama ran on in 2008. Do you think he failed to live up to the promises of that campaign? Is Donald Trump a part of his legacy now?
AC: I don’t know, but I don’t think so. I think Obama was a very decent guy. Since the early 1990s, real power has shifted away from politicians to all sorts of institutions that we almost don’t have the perception apparatus to see or understand. Frankly, a journalist doesn’t. I think Obama found himself facing a lot of that. But it’s us as well. At the same time that Obama came to power, we, the liberals, the Democrats, the progressives retreated to digital playgrounds owned by five or six very giant corporations. I think they left Obama quite isolated, actually. So far from snarling and spitting at him, which much of the left has done, they should actually turn around and look at themselves and wonder, possibly did we go down the wrong avenue believing all that internet utopianism? I just think that it’s time for a little humility among some of the progressives in their attitude to Obama.
As I point out in Hypernormalisation, the Occupy movement had a fantastic slogan and the goodwill of lots of people who would normally never support a rebellious movement like that. Yet when they actually got together, they found they had no ideas. I think it’s pretty rich that they then turned around and tried to blame Obama for not having a picture of the future when, quite frankly, they didn’t. If you want to change the world, A, you’ve got to work at it very hard, and B, you’ve got to challenge power, and that’s quite frightening and quite difficult, and you have to have a very strong idea of what you want.
"They found out they had no ideas." Wow. Nail, hit on head. It reminds me of two of the key threads of the countercultural movement into which I emerged out of high school. One was the anti-war movement, and the other was the civil rights movement that immediately preceded it. Both were totally immersed in and powered by action, positive, take-to-the-streets action, which of course could describe the Occupy movement. But what we had back then were concrete ideas: War in and of itself was bad, and if it wasn't outright bad, then the concept of a bad war was. With civil rights, again, we had the concrete: Discrimination was wrong. The first focus was race, but that moved quickly to sex, religion, gender, creed. These are powerful, concrete ideas upon which to base action.

Occupy had a problem: Carrying signs decrying the 1% wasn't enough. Basically what Occupy was saying was, "Give us back a big chunk of our money, or we're going to stay in this park and repeat after each other."

Liberals do have ideas, concrete ideas, but putting these into action is hard, not undoable, just hard. And, as Occupy proved, having no leaders is a drawback. Bernie Sanders is a leader, and he essentially has the right ideas -- so does Thomas Picketty in his Capital in the Twenty-First Century. So does Paul Krugman and a dozen or more other liberal economists who write and talk about social justice and income inequality regularly.

Basically we need an active movement, with strong leaders, that moves away from individualistic greed and towards the common good, which involves a wholesale redistribution of wealth. To accomplish this we need to abandon unfettered markets and embrace communitarianism. That will be a hard sell in this country. But it's what's needed. We have the ideas, and, after the election of Trump, we may have the bodies. Time to get to work.
 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

When Can Civil Rights Truly Become Civil Rights? Right Now. (Don't Tell Gorsuch.)

I've noticed this trend in a few recent rulings, and I've wondered if it has legs, meaning will the Supreme Court buy it? I say no, now that Neil Gorsuch is around to rule that religious liberty means denying liberty to others. Thanks, Trump.

I've got a feeling only religious assholes are going to like this guy.
Or, as Mike Pence might say, mission accomplished.

Salon featured a new decision by an en banc panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that reimagines a precedent using today's meaning of words. This flies in the face of originalist, or strict constructionist, interpretations of our laws. Generally, precedent has been set by an "original" reading of a law. But what good is a precedent if its meaning is locked in stone but our society is not?

Conservative judges would argue that locking archaic moralistic judgments in stone is the goal of originalism. What's the best way to interpret law? Why, as if it's 1787 all over again.

The best way to treat the LGBT? As if sex is only between a husband and his obedient wife. The best way to treat a gun issue? As if an AR-15 is the same as a flintlock.

But the Seventh Circuit just reminded us there is a newer, better way: What's the situation here and now, today, between modern people employing modern meanings of words? That's a different kettle of fish, as it should be.

So civil rights should include all rights, not just those referred to in the Constitution as if it were still 1787, and not just those rights according to dictionaries in the 1960s. In Salon:
An appeals court ruled in support of LGBT rights this week, reversing decades of interpretation that largely allowed companies to discriminate against workers on the basis of sexual orientation.
In their groundbreaking decision, nine of 12 judges in an en banc panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said that gay and lesbian workers are protected under Title VII. The Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College decision marks a major break from an interpretation that excluded sexual orientation, except in instances where one could make an argument of gender nonconformity. That meant that, previously, in order for workers to prove discrimination under Title VII, they had to allege that they were being discriminated against because they were not acting according to the stereotype associated with their gender.
[...]
She then filed her case in federal district court, again bringing forward the simple argument that Title VII should protect a worker from being discriminated against on the basis of her sexual orientation. The district court was sympathetic to her claim, but explained that Title VII prohibits discrimination “because of sex,” and explained that the court’s precedent “has held that Congress intended the term ‘sex’ to mean ‘biological male or biological female,’ and not one’s sexuality or sexual orientation. Thus, ‘harassment based solely upon a person’s sexual preference or orientation . . . is not an unlawful employment practice under Title VII.’”
The appeals court rejected this longstanding reading, stating that “it would require considerable calisthenics to remove the ‘sex’ from ‘sexual orientation.’ The effort to do so has led to confusing and contradictory results, as our panel opinion illustrated so well.”
The court further explained that whatever Congress meant in 1964 when it passed the law, or however courts have interpreted the law in the intervening decades, it was no longer tenable to exclude sexual orientation.
Famously, it was the Supreme Court that opened the door to this dismissal of precedent when they, under the leadership of Anthony Kennedy, decided in favor of same-sex marriage. And lower courts have increasingly found their way clear to say, as it were, that civil rights apply to all, not just those defined at the time a law was written.

When "sex" was inserted in a list of things for which one shouldn't be discriminated against, legislatures who wrote these laws, courts that interpreted them, and executive branches that enforced them envisioned sex between biological opposites. But when the meaning of sex changes, the civil rights afforded individuals must change, as well.

It's not that complicated, but tell that to Clarence Thomas or Samuel Alito. It will make their eyes bleed. Thus we have the refuge of originalism or strict constructionism, or, as I would prefer it, the last refuge of legal scoundrels.

Parenthetically, this is the one last debate that controls much of our debates: Trump was elected by white Christian men to preserve the prerogatives of white Christian men. Though they represent that same 30-35%, at most, of Americans who have managed, inexplicably, to bring Republicans to power across the country, they are in fact a declining minority. It's depressing the amount of damage they've managed to cause in the meantime. What once was the shining hope of the world has been reduced to a crude joke of a nation, held in suspicion and contempt by an increasingly dubious world. And that is pretty messed up.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Donald Trump Proves He's "Presidential" by Ordering an Ineffectual Air Raid Without Pissing His Pants.

I was mortified to watch the media -- especially cable -- get man-crushes on the Donald, simply because he joined the Big Boy Club of people who throw missiles around. Maybe some people actually died. That would be even better!

Now you've bombed somebody, Donald. Feel better?

In all seriousness, I'm being derisive because this knee-jerk reaction -- bombing for peace -- is getting old. But explain this: When's the last time this worked out? Okay, Clinton handled Bosnia and Kosovo pretty well. At least that war is well behind us, with few ghosts.

The rest of them, from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq (I and II, and, weirdly, now a sort of III with Mosul), our support for Israeli wars, the Arab Spring conflicts, and, Christ, Afghanistan and now Syria, well, it's a list of messes left unfixed. Can we stop the bombing already?

(Apropos of nothing, I suppose, but Jimmy Carter is the only president since Herbert Hoover to not bomb or shoot at anyone. He's looking pretty good about now.)

Atrios calls them Freedom Bombs, and, as he's right to remind us, how's that working out? We've got the biggest, nastiest armed forces in the freaking world, fine, but what did we get from crashing that air field? This?
(CNN) New airstrikes targeted a town in Syria that was hit by a chemical attack earlier this week, activists said, less than a day after the US bombarded a Syrian airbase to "send a message" to the Assad regime.
And the strikes were flown from the very base Trump ordered bombed. Thank God we did that without having any effect. Still, it was presidential. Everybody said so. Fareed Zakaria, Lindsay Graham, Brian Williams, David Ignatius. Haven't checked yet, but I'm sure Tom Friedman chimed in.

I wonder how stern, measured, and wise John McCain will be on the Sunday shows. Maybe he can explain how we're "winning." Because someone needs to help me out here.


Update. Dan Rather weighs in. (All the media apparently aren't crazy.)


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Trump University Scam Was Strictly a Family Affair

The true reach of the scam was right under our eyes. A guy named John Mashey uncovered it for us.

Bunch of fuckers, the whole lot of them.

Came across this tweet while sifting through a Twitter thread attacking Sean Spicer for lying to the press about Donald Trump's revised "trust" doc (not sure it's a trust, it's so full of holes). Anyway:


There you have it. The whole family plus Trump's CFO. You don't have to go far to go figure.

Not-so-random thought: Just how many nasty critters can fit under one rock?


McCain Calls the "Nuclear Option" Stupid Before Voting for It.

John McCain, long the leader of the free world -- hell, maybe even of the known universe, if only measured by the several million times he's been on the Sunday morning talk shows -- has finally demonstrated the sleight of hand by which he wields the levers of power. And here I thought only Donald Trump had mastered knuckleheadedness to black-belt status.

At long last John McCain has outstripped his own baloney.

I suppose I shouldn't cast blame only on McCain. All fifty-two Republican senators voted to blow up the filibuster. But this? Really?


Johnny, you have redefined outrage, for generations to come.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Speaking of Dishonesty, Is the Long, Right-Wing Grift Grinding to a Close? (Probably Not Soon Enough)

Hard to tell. Bill O'Reilly may finally get his comeuppance as sponsors leave him in droves, but it's hard to wean the rubes from the far-right teets they've been sucking on. But at least it's starting to be out in the open.

Illustration: Jim Cooke/FMG

Atrios flagged one part of the story by Alex Pareene. Here's my slice:
For years, the conservative movement peddled one set of talking points to the rabble, while its elites consumed a more grounded and reality-based media. The rubes listened to talk radio, read right-wing blogs, watched Fox News. They were fed apocalyptic paranoia about threats to their liberty, racial hysteria about the generalized menace posed by various groups of brown people, and hysterical lies about the criminal misdeeds of various Democratic politicians. The people in charge, meanwhile, read The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard, and they tended to have a better grasp of political reality, as when those sources deceived their readers, it was mostly unintentionally, with comforting fantasies about the efficacy of conservative policies. From the Reagan era through the Bush administration, the system seemed to be performing as designed.
The funny thing is that Donald Trump may not be sophisticated enough to know not to drink from the same well as the poor stiffs who believe him. A snake-oil salesman eating his own tail?
The bottom-feeding amorality of the sorts of people who sponsored the right-wing press, and the crummy nature of the products and services sold, shows exactly who was supposed to be consuming it: suckers. Or, more specifically, trusting retirees, with a bit of disposable income, and a natural inclination to hate modernity and change—an inclination that could be heightened, radicalized, and exploited.
I'm just cynical enough to accept that maybe this is the way civilizations die, or at least one of the ways. A non-intellectual bubble within an intellectual one, with the manipulators feeding the rubes in a not-quite circular fashioning of epistemic closure. It's grotesque and probably, in this day and age, increasingly dangerous.

I don't feel good.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Good News Even Trump Can't Screw Up: Natural Ways to Clean Water

It's not even being cynical to realize that the current Republican regime led by Trump is so anti-science that creative ways to produce safe drinking water would rile conservative ideology. Let's hope they don't hear about it and fight to defund it.

This is no way to live, but two billion people worldwide are water-insecure.

Good news is hard to find these days, and that's why this article at Salon is so uplifting:
Then there’s the most unlikely of purification tools: human waste. While places like California are sanitizing sewer water to make it available for drinking, this process is expensive and energy-intensive — i.e., not reasonable for the developing world. In these traditional treatment plants, the water in sewage is separated from biomass via filters, before being sanitized with UV light. Imagine instead a machine that can turn sewage into clean drinking water in a process so efficient, it produces enough electricity to power itself and the surrounding area.
That’s the idea behind the Omni-Processor, a wastewater purification machine the size of a couple of school buses. It converts sewage water to vapor, at which point the biomass portion drops out so that it can be burned for power. Then, this vapor is converted back into water, minus any human waste. The first Omni-Processor model has been undergoing field testing in Senegal since May of 2015, where it’s now capable of processing 4,000 tons of sludge per year. The second model, which has double the capacity, was recently shipped to West Africa, where it will be able to produce nearly 12,000 gallons of potable water per day.
Great stuff. By the way, it's not a joke that Republicans would not favor wasting money on this sort of innovation. Here's how White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney views famine relief, via Mother Jones:
Starvation and famine? Yawn. Another reporter asked Mulvaney about the administration's plans to reduce spending on the United Nations and foreign aid, despite famine and starvation facing 20 million people—a "humanitarian crisis," according to the UN. "Are you worried that some of the most vulnerable people on earth will suffer?" the reporter asked. "We're absolutely reducing funding to the UN and to the various foreign aid programs," Mulvaney said. "That should come as a surprise to no one who watched the campaign."
Heartless is the new normal.


Friday, March 31, 2017

West Virginia Is Living in a Culture of Nostalgia for a Time Long Gone, and "Clean" Coal Ain't Bringing It Back

Trump is a decent salesman, granted, but he's still selling snake oil when it comes to bringing jobs back that have disappeared for good.


The chart above shows the real truth of the matter. These days, there are 20 thousand coal jobs in West Virginia and just under 120 thousand healthcare jobs, required to take care of an aging population.

As Paul Krugman points out:
Why does an industry that is no longer a major employer even in West Virginia retain such a hold on the region’s imagination, and lead its residents to vote overwhelmingly against their own interests?

Coal powered the Industrial Revolution, and once upon a time it did indeed employ a lot of people. But the number of miners began a steep decline after World War II, and especially after 1980, even though coal production continued to rise. This was mainly because modern extraction techniques — like blowing the tops off mountains — require far less labor than old-fashioned pick-and-shovel mining. The decline accelerated about a decade ago as the rise of fracking led to competition from cheap natural gas.
So coal-mining jobs have been disappearing for a long time. Even in West Virginia, the most coal-oriented state, it has been a quarter century since they accounted for as much as 5 percent of total employment.
Due to the aging of West Virginians -- and a heritage of bad health brought on, yes, by the coal industry itself -- healthcare and social services account for five times the jobs that West Virginians do compared to coal, regardless of the continuing, but waning, cultural image of a time when "men were men, and miners dug deep."

If coal comes back as an industry -- and that's a real long shot, given the rise of cheaper, cleaner alternatives -- maybe a few dozen jobs will result. Try telling that to the ever-present West Virginian Trump voter, and you'll get an earful. What you, and that West Virginian, won't get is very many new jobs in coal country.

It's time to dig deep all right, and hope to find new industries -- God forbid they'd be in renewable energy alternatives! -- and build a new future in an aging state. Because, as Krugman says, coal is a state of mind, not a viable trade for tomorrow.

To drive the point home:


Where are those new WV jobs coming from? The Medicaid expansion, with all those new citizens with health coverage from Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. So, can Trump cure West Virginia's problems by pushing coal and slamming Obamacare? No. That's a recipe for disaster in coal country. Who will it hurt? Uh, Trump voters, to be sure.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Really Bad News for Trump: Trump Voters Are Beginning to Dislike Him.

I didn't see this coming, mostly because Donald Trump knows how to reach his people. But now he's not doing that. The latest polling bears that out.

I don't think another rally is going to fix this.

Let's face it, Donald, polling shit just got real:
A drop of five percentage points among Republicans isn’t ideal, but it’s not that huge a deal. A drop of nine points among independents, though, is a loss of more than one-fifth of Trump’s support from that group over the last two months. That’s a brutal decline that may start to make Republicans nervous about how he could affect their electoral prospects over the long-term. Among those who identify as independents ideologically (as opposed to their partisan identification), the drop was 11 points, a loss of nearly a third of all support from that group since Jan. 20.
Other groups saw less-steep but still-important drops, like those Republicans. White voters have dropped under 50 percent support as has support from regular churchgoers. Those without a college degree — a bastion of Trump support — have dropped from 48 percent to 42 percent.
Trump's gone underwater with everyone, even with groups that should be his fans. Now, he can wait for things to get better. Re-election is years away. But for members of Congress, especially the House, it begins in earnest only months away. Even what's happening now begins to signal difficulties they'll face.

Do they want The Orange One dragging them down? No, they don't. So getting those badly needed votes for the Trump Agenda (whatever that is) will be difficult to impossible moving forward, especially if Trump keeps fucking up everyday or every other day. I wouldn't wanna be him, believe me.

To quote a somewhat dated line from Huey Lewis: Sometimes bad is bad.


Justice Samuel Alito, Anti-Gay Snowflake

I willingly admit I was just a little bit Alito on gay issues until I snapped out of it a few years back (true about a lot of us). Nonetheless (or because of it), I'm allowed to criticize the real Alito, who is a Grand-Canyon-sized hypocrite.

Awwh, Sammy, gays a little too icky for you?

I read two Slate articles back to back that ring true about sexual orientation discrimination. The first showed that the law -- and even the freaking Constitution -- fundamentally protects against just about any form of discrimination you can think of, including what the folks in Independence Hall in Philadelphia contemplated when the came up with the Bill of Rights. True, the founding fathers didn't anticipate its application to gay rights:
Next, Katzmann described what I call the Loving theory of sex discrimination, which appealed to the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals when it confronted this issue in November. In Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that anti-miscegenation laws do not discriminate on the basis of race because whites and blacks in interracial relationships were punished equally. The Loving court found that anti-miscegenation laws still constituted race discrimination because they punished romantic association on the basis of race. Courts have since extended that logic to Title VII, holding that when an employer discriminates against an employee for associating with black people, it has engaged in race discrimination.
“Once we accept this premise,” Katzmann wrote, “it makes little sense to carve out same‐sex relationships as an association to which these protections do not apply, particularly where, in the constitutional context, the Supreme Court has held that same‐sex couples cannot be “lock[ed] … out of a central institution of the Nation’s society,” citing Obergefell v. Hodges and United States v. Windsor. “In sum, if it is race discrimination to discriminate against interracial couples, it is sex discrimination to discriminate against same‐sex couples.”
What I found so brilliant about Katzmann's theory is that it gets to the heart of civil rights: If it's discrimination one way, it's discrimination all ways. Apply the logic. If it's wrong to tell interacial couples they can't marry -- or tell blacks they can't use this or that restroom or they can't have this or that job -- it's also wrong when applied to gays, trans, or other differently sexually oriented people. You might call it the Unified Theory of Discrimination.

Before I get to the second article, let me offer that this Unified Theory of Discrimination doesn't apply to "religious liberty" because the First Amendment specifically crafted a separation of church and state with its Establishment Clause. With that in mind....

Next was the article about Alito himself, anti-gay snowflake, because being Catholic is so, er, hard.
Poor Samuel Alito! The Supreme Court justice has so much to be upset about. Sure, he’s about to gain an ally on the bench in his ceaseless fight against unions, women’s rights, the environment, and LGBTQ equality. But in spite of all that, gay people can get married in America—and that makes Alito very sad. So on Wednesday, he spoke to Advocati Christi, a Catholic lawyers’ association, about the grievous threat that marriage equality poses to religious liberty. From the Associated Press:
Alito used his own words from his dissent in the Supreme Court’s landmark same-sex marriage case, telling the gathering he had predicted opposition to the decision would be used to “vilify those who disagree, and treat them as bigots.”
“We are seeing this is coming to pass,” he said. … “A wind is picking up that is hostile to those with traditional moral beliefs.”
Oh, dear. The dystopia that Alito describes really is quite chilling: a world in which religious conservatives cannot use the law to restrict the rights of minorities without … being criticized. Can you imagine it? Surely our founders did not write the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause with the intent to protect criticism of political beliefs. Have the bounds of discourse really been so corrupted that Americans believe they can publicly denounce anti-gay activists? Using mean words? What has this once great nation come to?
Poor wittle Awito! The First Amendment might let people -- who think he's been mean to them -- be mean right back. Oh, heavenly vapors!

Straight up, I believe that religion is antiquated superstition, not to mention that THE FIRST AMENDMENT DOESN'T ALLOW THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A RELIGION, CHRISTIANITY OR OTHERWISE. Can't say that loudly enough. This nonsense of religious freedom is an improper application of the Establishment Clause because people's religious beliefs can't be imposed on others, which is exactly what Alito's fav, Hobby Lobby, imposed.

So, Sammy, you won one with Hobby, so fuck off with your "they're so mean to us Catholics" meme. The Constitution doesn't give you a safe space or offer you a pass from microaggressions, you precious little snowflake.

Monday, March 27, 2017

What Americans Need to Understand about Health Insurance

Of course, the best way to "understand" health insurance is to eliminate it (no more Mr. Middleman!), but if we have to have it, at least we should know how it works (or should work).

Auto insurance is mandatory so we can all afford it, even on a BMW.

We insure things -- and lives -- to cover risk, the risk of crashing, of getting injured, of dying. The reason we can afford insurance at all is that everyone, or a reasonable proportion of people, buys it.

Car insurance is affordable because, by law, everyone has to have it. Health insurance isn't affordable -- in the U.S. -- because not everyone has to have it. That was true until Obamacare. One of Obamacare's legs in the three-legged stool was the mandate. Unfortunately, that's been weakened through a late roll out and now a lack of enforcement (if Trump gets his way).

The thing that everyone must understand about everyone having health insurance is that just because you don't need it doesn't mean you shouldn't purchase it anyway. Why? Because the system of insurance is designed so that those who don't need it pay for those who do. Eventually the favor will be returned.

When the young, buff, and healthy turn old and gray -- and sick -- a new crop of young, buff, and healthy will step up and take care of the old. It's the way it's supposed to work and those who say, "The hell if I'm going to pay for the bastards" are actually ditching their responsibility. Also, if everyone pays, the risk pool is big enough to bring and hold costs down, yes, for everyone.

So, dammit, conservatives, take responsibility. That's what you claim you do, right?


Conservatives Beginning to Think Truthtelling Might Be the Way to Go

Imagine a whole political movement so devoted to winning the messaging wars that it forgot that using the truth was the best way to do it. You'd be thinking of conservatism.

Never liked him, but never had reason to distrust him.

My dad, an LBJ liberal, watched Buckley all the time because he wanted to know what the other side was thinking. As a kid, I never liked Buckley because he seemed too glib and cynical. Of course it would be years before I knew what glib and cynical meant, but it turned out, in my view, I was right.

But I never thought he was outright lying to me. When he started the National Review, I'm sure it was a sincere attempt to counter the message of The Nation and The New Republic, which came over our transom at home. I was too busy listening to rock 'n' roll to read them. That was then, and this is now, when I eat, sleep, and breath politics and economics (Okay, I golf, play music, work out, cook, and live, of course).

Flash forward a few decades, and we live in a world where the right wing of American politics came to value their ability to control the message, something they do very well. It's become an art form for them. Frank Luntz is a great practitioner of it. As an example (he loves to offer this one up himself), Luntz said the best way to sell a bill or a regulation that lowers pollution standards is to call it the Healthy Skies Initiative. See how it's done?

That tendency to misinform, dissemble, and outright lie has grown among conservatives to the extent that there's no comparison with the other, liberal side, whose very liberalism actually curtails the abuse of the truth. We liberals still think that truth is our secret weapon. Yes, we're not always pure, but against the conservatives there's no fair comparison. Think Bill O'Reilly vs. Rachel Maddow, Sean Hannity vs. Chris Hayes, and Rush Limbaugh vs. Michael Smerconish.

Now for the late lede: So, apparently, some on the right side of the media are beginning to agree that they've left the truth too far behind. The new editor of The Weekly Standard, Stephen F. Hayes, has decided that bunk is bunk and no longer a handy cudgel to reach for. He thinks truth might be coming back into fashion.
Mr. Hayes shares the viewpoint of another prominent Wisconsin conservative, Charlie Sykes, the #NeverTrump talk radio host who declared last year that he and his fellow conservative media stalwarts had been too successful in delegitimizing the mainstream news media.
“We destroyed our own immunity to fake news while empowering the worst and most reckless voices on the right,” Mr. Sykes wrote in The Times last year.
Mr. Hayes said he put more of the onus for that on the mainstream news media than Mr. Sykes does (though Mr. Sykes certainly puts some there). It has undercut itself with conservative-leaning readers, he said, through “the questions that aren’t asked and aren’t covered” in a way that seems to favor liberal viewpoints.
Yet the effect remained: There are right-leaning voters who “don’t believe what they’re getting from the networks and the left-leaning cable outlets” and therefore may be open to false or unsubstantiated content that provides affirmation at the expense of true information, he said.
At the "expense of true information" indeed. By the way, I've enjoyed seeing Charlie Sykes -- who's often on MSNBC now that he reformed -- because his candor is so refreshing among the stalwarts of right-wing radio from whence he's sprung.

The right, of course, has Donald Trump to blame for its predicament. That and the generalized epistemic closure that brought The Orange One to power.

Interesting factoid that I didn't know: The Weekly Standard was owned by Rupert Murdoch until he sold it in 2009. No wonder it was so right-wing and prone to disinformation, and no wonder it's ready to experiment with the truth. We wish it, and Stephen F. Hayes, luck.


Paul Ryan, Policy Wonk? More Like a Policy ((BONK!!))

Paul Krugman went after Paul Ryan's fake wonkishness years ago. Now everyone is finally catching on.


Those of us who've been schooled in real math and real economics -- often by Paul Krugman (there are others, like Dean Baker, Jared Bernstein, Joe Stiglitz) -- long ago stopped being fooled by Paul Ryan's policy wonk schtick. Now, after his healthcare disaster, he may never get away with it again:
During last year’s Republican primaries, Marco Rubio famously described Donald Trump as a “con artist.” But this week, with the disastrous rollout of the American Health Care Act, we’ve seen the con artist get played by an even slicker, more professional grifter. And Trump is not alone in being conned: House Speaker Paul Ryan has been fooling a lot of people for a long time, making the world believe that he’s the foremost Republican policy wonk, an expert in the fine print of budgets who could bring a much-needed seriousness to Washington. In an ideal world, the damage caused by Ryan’s role in pushing the deeply flawed AHCA won’t be limited to his relationship with Trump. This episode should strike at the real root cause of the mess: The powerful, persistent Washington myth that Ryan is a policy genius.
Ouch indeed. I'm sure folks like David Brooks -- that never learn -- will still throw the policy-wonk moniker his way occasionally, but let's hope it completely disappears among the actual intelligentsia. Knucklehead is more like it.

And, for good measure, read how Politico summed up Ryan's catastrophic bill.